Endless shopping and vanishing bars in Bangkok

Day 14 – Round the World 2008

This morning we decided to venture out in search of a slightly better hotel, or one with a window at least. Walking Khao San Roadwards from the river we found a really cool little back road called Soi Rambutri. It was kind of a less manky version of Khao San Road, lined with hotels and bars and complete with stalls and food carts, but a bit less

busy and with fewer people screaming the benefits of their wares in your face. We found a hotel called Sian Baan which was only 500 bhat complete with window and, luxury of luxuries, air conditioning. I quickly cranked the AC up to ‘super-freeze’ and spent the next hour standing underneath it revelling in my dry skin, and probably using the same amount of electricity as a small village in the process.

That afternoon I was faced with the exciting prospect of a trip to some of Bangkok’s famous shopping malls to get Cat kitted out for the Thai beaches to come. We jumped on a local bus (number 15 if you’re interested) and it took us from the end of Khao San Rd right to the middle of Siam Square, where we spotted the daddy of all shopping centres, the Mahboonkrong, called MBK by locals and visitors alike. The Siam square area in general raised my development measure of Bangkok a whole bunch of notches, the whole place looking more like a futuristic city than any british metropolis, sky trains and shiny skyscrapers abound. MBK though is one of the biggest features, basically the biggest collection of vendors of crap I’ve ever seen in my entire life – 7 floors of shops, stalls, cafes, restaurants and cinemas (?) crammed shoulder to shoulder, and packed even more with eager, excited shoppers haggling and bartering like their lives depended on it.

The afternoon passed in a foot-sore, wallet-lightening blur for me, but Cat got most of what she needed and I got a decent wee feed about half way through. They had a ‘food mall’ on one of the middle floors in which you are handed a plastic card on entry before being faced with 20 or so food stalls, all from different countries. I say stalls but they were that in function only, they were fully functioning little permanent kitchens, but instead of eating at each restaurant you wander around ordering, say, a starter from Vietnam, a main from Cambodia and a pudding from Thailand, swiping each on your card before taking them all over to the communal eating area. It was pretty cool, but turned out to be a well designed way to make you spend far more money than you would otherwise as you just keep ordering a whole bunch of little things that end up costing you 2 normal dinners. It was good though, just about worth it for the variety, and in any case, I needed a reward for my bag carrying and ‘ooh, it’s lovely’ services.

That night we thought we’d try out the parallel road to Khao San, Tha Rambutri, and found a few decent little food places to start of with. We discovered early on that the bars in that area are totally variable when it comes to price, easily finding a bar selling bottles of beer for £2 right next to a smaller place at half that price. The seating was the key we found – the quality of the stools telling a lot about how much that place would try to rip you off. we wandered from bar to bar finding progressively worse and worse places to rest our weary rears, only to find the king of all purveyors of the alchoholic beverage. The seating said it all, plastic drinks crates thrown down in the street, and the bar itself seemed cobbled together from corrugated iron right out in the street, the only new part of the whole place being the glistening bottles of spirits sitting atop the metal monstrosity. ‘That’s the badger,’ I thought and all but ran up to it’s rusting frontage to order a drink. The prices didn’t dissapoint and Cat and I sat there for the next couple of hours trying out all sorts of lethal spirits and cocktails, none tasting the slightest bit like the brand names on the menu, least of all the ‘Jack Daniels’ and coke. We managed to get drunk enough to throw caution to the wind and order one of the infamous buckets, litterally a kids plastic sand-castle bucket full of booze, and even the dubious ice didn’t put us off for once.

You can probably imagine how the rest of the night went, and it did, even including the Thai version of the drunken kebab on the way home, only this one was unidentified meat from a roadside vendor sitting on the same grill as a bunch of frog-on-a-sticks. The frog juice and the dubious meat source were no match for bucket-induced drunken hunger though and we marched home happily guzzling away.

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